The joy that goes with festivals was abruptly terminated Monday when an Islamic cleric, identified as Mallam Lateef Sabiu, was allegedly shot dead by some followers of a masquerade during the ongoing masquerade festival in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
It was gathered that Sabiu was riding on a motorcycle (okada) with
two other persons when he was shot by the followers of the masquerade,
popularly called “Lehin Aponle”. The criminals were said to be armed
with guns and other weapons.
After the murder, enraged youths from different Islamic organisations
in the city razed a building, believed to belong to traditional
worshippers of the deity whose masquerades allegedly killed the cleric,
in protest against the murder of one of their members.
The youths also torched the house of the owner of the masquerade at
Anigbio’s compound in Oja-Ale area of Ijaye within the metropolis.
Consequently, the Ogun State Police Command has suspended further
activities on the 2013 edition of the festival not only in Abeokuta, but
in the entire state, to forestall the escalation of violence.
The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Muyiwa Adejobi, an
Assistant Superintendent of Police, told reporters in Abeokuta yesterday
that the police had arrested three persons along with the bearer of the
masquerade over the murder. Those arrested were Ajayi Olabintan, Shittu
Adeyemi, Waheed Babalola, as well as the bearer of the masquerade whose
identity was undisclosed.
Speaking with reporters on the incident, one of the community
leaders, the Balogun of Ijaye and Aare of Egbaland, Chief Ganiyu
Babayeju-Alemo, said the crisis had forced the Egba Traditional Council
in consultation with the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo,
to suspend other activities of the 2013 Egungun festival in Abeokuta.
Babayeju-Alemo, who emphasised that the masquerade has a penchant for
violence, added that its followers were shooting sporadically into the
air before they attacked the deceased.
He said that the community was forced to invite the police following
the attack on the family compound of the masquerade early yesterday by
the Islamic youths.
In a reaction to the murder, the Ogun State chapter of Muslim Rights
Concern (MURIC) described the incident as “disheartening and callous”,
adding that the state government has over the years, turned deaf ears to
letters and calls from the association over what it called terrorist
acts of the traditionalists in the state.
“It is totally disheartening and callous that the current state
government in Ogun State has allowed emissaries of doom to invade the
state and kill innocent citizens,” it said.
In a statement signed by MURIC’s Chairman, Soliu Luqman, in Abeokuta,
the organisation called on the state government to, as a matter of
urgency, prosecute those arrested to prevent any reprisal from the
It also called on the Muslim community to exercise patience and
desist from taking the laws into their hands and allow security
operatives and the state government to take charge of the situation.